February 18, 2022


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Tags: Berkeley, board, education, election, Individuals, Journalnews, seek


Categories: Special needs education

9 people search election to Berkeley Co. Board of Schooling | Journal-news

Nine Berkeley County residents have thrown their hats into the ring to fill the open positions of the Berkeley County Board of Education in the coming election. Two of those residents are seeking to maintain their spots on the board, while current board Vice President Todd Beckwith will also leave an open spot after announcing in 2021 his intention to retire from the position this year.



Valley District

A father of an elementary student in Berkeley County, Bost saw this coming election as a time to be more active in his son’s education and the community following his retirement from the Navy.

“Hearing from parents, teachers, aides and other staff, it was clear that change was needed on the board of education,” Bost said.

If elected, Bost would like to see an audit of the Berkeley County Schools budget, with a focus of cutting cost in areas that won’t cause harm to the education or place a hardships on educators.

“We will find ways to use those savings to support teachers, aides, drivers and other employees,” Bost said.

He will also push for curriculum transparency and a review of the entire K-12 curriculum.

“I envision a board of education that is friendly to school choice, allowing parents to make the best decisions for their children’s education,” he said. “We will immediately review our membership in state or national associations, particularly those collecting dues from the board, and ensure continued membership is in the best interest of Berkeley County students and educators. Finally, we will work continuously with West Virginia legislators to review state code that limits our ability to pay our staff a competitive salary.”

Bost is a retired chief petty pfficer of 20 years in the Navy, serving two tours on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and one on the USS George H.W. Bush as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. During that time, he completed two instructor tours, training young electricians and nuclear reactor operators. Bost’s connection to education finds roots in his parents, as his mother taught in both public and private schools in Virginia and his father was a bus operator and custodian and now serves as a substitute teacher in Shenandoah County, Virginia.


Norborne District

With grandchildren in Berkeley County schools currently, concern about their education inspired DeHaven to seek a seat on the Berkeley County Board of Education.

She said she’s a grandmother and great-grandmother in the county, who cares about an education that would lead them to be good leaders.

“After hearing about what is being taught in schools, i.e., CRT and inappropriate books in libraries, this really concerned me,” she said. “This inspired me to run for election.”

DeHaven said she wants to see less focus on social issues and more focus on traditional classes.

“Children should not be taught sex education in schools,” she said. “Children should not be taught to hate one another because of the color of their skin. The schools need to focus on teaching children how to read, as there are many who are passed through the system and can’t even read.

“They need to be taught good math skills and focus on teaching children how to solve math problems, not confuse them with some new way they don’t understand. They need to learn history, and most importantly, learn why the U.S. Constitution was written and what is in it. History can’t be rewritten by people who want to change it. History is what happened and should be written as it took place, not made up by someone who wants it written to their liking.”

She added she’d like to see the board better listen to concerns of parents, students and teachers and that she does not support a mask mandate.

DeHaven worked for an association in Washington D.C. for 20 years and has been active in her community, serving on her HOA and as a member of various conservative organizations.

Ron Hurst



Adam Stephen District

Hurst is seeking election to the board after hitting his final straw and finding it time to take action.

“For me, it wasn’t so much inspiration as it was a final-straw provocation from government officials at the federal level,” he said. “I had reached the tipping point in things that I had been putting up with for far too long. I’d also heard about some alarming things going on in schools around the country. So this is where I decided to take on a more active role than just social media venting, voting and donating to various causes.”

Hurst said, if elected, he wants to focus on curriculum transparency for parents and guardians in Berkeley County. He noted a recent influx in turnout at bimonthly board meetings during which individuals are voicing their concerns and opinions. He added that he supports full transparency, in which taxpayer money is being spent and noted that the process in obtaining information should be simplified to foster community trust.

Hurst considered himself an outsider in the race, in a sense, as he doesn’t have a formal background in education.

“Perhaps, the county needs exactly that,” Hurst said. “Those with a fresh perspective, untouched by the narrative that cyclically leaves voters dissatisfied.”

Hurst has a background in nursing, which gave him a clear understanding of ethics, he said. He supports fully informed consent and said he refuses to take part in forced compliance against a free citizen.

“I want the children of our county protected, well fed and exceptionally educated,” Hurst said. “I want staff to be recruited and retained. I want improved school buildings. At the end of the day, I want what most of us want: for the governing bodies to leave my, my family’s and my community’s constitutional freedoms alone.”

Valerie Ledford



Shenandoah District

Ledford enters the election with experience running, having also sought a seat on the board in 2020. The inspiration behind her initial campaign continues today, as her platform has remained true to her heart while adapting with current times.

“When I ran for BOE in 2020, I made the decision because I saw the need for new leadership, and I’m passionate about creating positive change,” Ledford said. “I also wanted to bring true understanding to the struggles families face. That’s why I chose to run in 2022; however, the school closures, because of COVID, changed things for everyone. Social and emotional needs are now just as important as academics.

“The social element of development and peer relationships are a cornerstone of learning. In order to thrive in academic success, our students must also be able to self-regulate.”

Ledford said the frequent changes of information and guidelines cause stress in not only families but the youth, as well, seeing firsthand the consequences on staff, faculty, students and families.

“Since returning to the school buildings, the gaps created by these safety measures have grown,” Ledford said. “This means we have to work in a different way than before. Developmental needs have always been important, but there is a new layer from all the constant changes. Being an advocate for families, mental health and special needs, I know what areas need to be strengthened to support students and staff.”

Ledford said her biggest priorities, if elected, would be staff retention and hiring new employees; more open communication between parents and staff; and conversations with citizens and staff within two weeks of voicing concern. She would like to reevaluate the discipline policy and implement a mental-health policy to help staff and families address concerns and recognize any problems that require support.

“I would like to implement a plan of how we keep our staff safe from abusive behaviors and peers from becoming desensitized by witnessing these actions,” Ledford said. “Lastly, I’d like to focus on the importance of early education and those developmental skills needed to help build self-esteem and the foundation of their education. Helping our youth early will make a tremendous difference in middle and high school.”

Ledford has worked in several schools over the last four years in a different district, working as a special education aide. She is a mental health and special-needs advocate within the state and mother of a child with special needs. She has also fostered and adopted. Ledford is a member of her child’s Local School Improvement Council and co-chair of the Berkeley County Diversity Council. She is enrolled in BCS101 and has been honored as a Volunteer of the Month and with the Community Organizer Award by Our Future West Virginia.

Jackee Long



Adam Stephen District

Long was born and raised in Martinsburg, spending more than 40 years working in the local district. She is seeking the chance to continue serving on the board after filling a hole left by the resignation of Dr. Bill Queen in March 2021.

Long said she feels she has bought a positive and impactful change to the board since taking the seat, bringing an understanding of what the employees go through.

“I have been in the trenches where these employees are,” she said. “I feel the pain that they are going through. The pandemic has brought about such different dynamic for students, parents and, definitely, educators. It has made all of us look at avenues in education that we never thought we would be implementing or dealing with.”

Long has a great knowledge of West Virginia Code and State Aid Formula, along with policies and procedures at the state and local levels. She is passionate about continuing and seeking funding for mental health issues for students and employees, seeing the effect the pandemic has had on an area already in need.

Recruitment and retention are also listed among Long’s top priorities, if elected, as Berkeley County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, yet continues to lose personnel to neighboring areas.

“Locality pay is a must in this area in order to retain and recruit teachers and staff,” she said. “Along these same lines comes overcrowding issues in schools and the need for additional schools or additions to schools. It is estimated that Berkeley County will grow by 2,000 students by 2030. We have to be prepared and forward thinking. New facilities are wonderful, but we have to have adequate staff to place in them.”

Pat Murphy



Shenandoah District

With more than a decade’s experience on the board, Murphy is one of two current members seeking to maintain a seat on the board.

Murphy said he enjoys seeing students being educated, which has always served as an inspiration to serve the local district.

“Prior to this COVID pandemic, I visited all of our schools, witnessing our innovative teachers putting their hearts into this students’ learning,” Murphy said. “I have see our pupils’ accomplishments in our classrooms, academic fairs, art performances and their families’ exhilaration upon the students’ graduation. Those moments have been humbling to experience.”

Murphy said the West Virginia Constitution requires the board to provide a thorough and efficient education to students, a requirement that takes action as soon as the oath is taken and is part of all decisions. To accomplish that requirement, Murphy wants to see increased percentages of students performing on or above grade level. He will continue to search for impediments to negative practices impacting the delivery of education and advocate for more restroom facilities in schools.

Murphy supports the recent academic competition initiated by Senate President Craig Blair, noting seeing a decline in standards and expectations over the years. He intends to challenge those and raise the bar.

Murphy has been a strong supporter of wearing masks in schools, among other precautions, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe as hard and dedicated as our educators worked in delivering virtual or ‘Click’ learning to our students during this pandemic last year, we have realized that in-person instruction is the best method for our students to learn,” Murphy said. “This board took the precautions to allow all of our students to return as safely as guidelines permitted. Masks allowed more of our students to remain in class and not be isolated at home when an infected or exposed individual was identified.

“We also tried to protect vulnerable grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and our students. Back in 1918, during the influenza pandemic, Vick’s Vapor Rub was sold out in stores, and some folks thought garlic strung around their necks would ward off the disease. If I thought it would have protected our children, I would have passed out garlic bulbs.”

Murphy grew up in Martinsburg, serving in the United States Marines before becoming a longtime educator in Berkeley County. He has also served in the state House of Delegates and volunteers in the county, notably with the photography program at the Martinsburg Boys and Girls Club, among other services.

Melissa Power



Valley District

Power is a mother of two who have been through the BCS and public school system, leading the mother to be involved in various ways, including her current campaign for a seat on the board.

Power has volunteered throughout her children’s time in elementary school, including serving as the PTO president. She also has a two bachelor’s degrees, including one in psychology, as well as a unique work history that includes working with teens and adults in crisis situations, working as a support staff member in public schools and currently as a project coordinator with a family-owned-and-operated construction company.

“I believe that my experience and unique perspective can provide a place where trust can be rebuilt between we, the people, and the board of ed,” she said. “Our children and the staff of BCS are worth the effort that this requires.”

Having seen the struggles firsthand while working in the public school sector, Power said she is acutely aware of struggles that plague staff members. She also brings understanding of curriculum concerns and the ability of families to have a say in their children’s education.

“The struggle between what we, the people, desire and what the previous and/or current board of ed leadership does has only intensified over the last couple of years due to the pandemic,” Power said. “I believe that it has brought Berkeley County to an inflection point where there is a real choice for them: continue on this same destructive path or vote for change that includes increased transparency, better fiscal responsibility and to rebuild the trust and confidence in our public education system.”

Power said if elected, she will focus on the removal of mask mandates, more transparency and no Critical Race Theory being taught.

Christian Waskow



Shenandoah District

Having been in the public service sector his entire life, Waskow felt it was time to take that experience to the local board of education, saying helping the public is what he enjoys.

“I am running, because I am watching individual freedoms protected by our U.S. Constitution being eroded by government overreach,” Waskow said. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution when I served in the Air Force, an oath that I will always honor. Someone needs to stand up for these kids, and I am more than willing to do so.”

Waskow will focus on ending mask mandates, improving school meals, auditing the district’s budget to eliminate wasteful spending and bringing the parents, teachers, support staff and school administrations closer together if elected.

“Our children are our future and a national treasure,” Waskow said. “I am looking forward to working with parents and staff of Berkeley County Schools.”

Waskow has experience in training others for jobs, having created training material for airmen during his time in the Air Force. He also has worked with contracts and written Statements of Work to provide clear requirements to vendors.

Damon Wright



Potomac District

A lifetime resident of Berkeley County, Wright has been contemplating running for a seat on the board for a few years, but recent times drove him to finally take the leap.

“There seems to be a push to deal with issues not affecting our students and teachers rather than finding ways to keep students engaged and making teaching an attractive occupation,” Wright said. “Teachers and service personnel are our first responders and need to be treated with the respect they deserve. The push to block CRT, even though it is not taught in any K-12 schools in West Virginia, is frustrating.

“I have not read or heard any candidate who points to any specific lessons that are espousing CRT. Unfortunately, in the meantime, efforts to help our diverse student population will be hindered. Diversity is more than just race. It encompasses our special-needs students, ESL, students from various socioeconomic levels and more. Restricting the ability for teachers and students to study our complex history will be the true harm.”

Wright said, if elected, his priorities lie in bringing a supportive element to students and staff, wanting teachers to be able to implement creative educational pathways with a knowledge that every class and student is unique.

“Teachers and students need to be able to ask tough questions to help develop critical-thinking skills,” Wright said. “I, of course, want parent input because they can provide valuable insight, and having multiple voices can help me find weaknesses in our system that can be improved.”

He would like to see more retention for staff developed, including a Grow Your Own Teacher program. Wright will encourage state leaders to implement locality pay and would like to have more involvement and knowledge of LSICs to parents and the community.

Wright is a product of Berkeley County Schools and is a father of three, who also graduated from BCS. He serves on the Communities Against Violence Board, the Berkeley County Schools Diversity Council (chair) and is a small business owner. Wright has also been a guest co-host and contributor on WRNR.

Wright works with the government, conducting and developing trainings in various states and has several family members in the education sector. He’s also been a part of meetings with Martinsburg leadership in regard to improvements within the city and police force.


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